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Public urged to guard against unnecessary 999 call-outs

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service is highlighting the risks and cost associated with responding to unwanted false alarms and nuisance calls.

Attending an unnecessary call-out can divert crews away from genuine emergencies and results in additional expense at a time of constrained budgets. 

The Fire and Rescue Service has stressed that it will respond to a 999 call and understands there may be occasions when an incident turns out to be less serious than initially thought. 

However, householders, commercial property owners and tradespersons have been urged to take care, particularly when carrying out routine maintenance of fire alarm systems. 

The advice comes after the Emergency Services Joint Control Room (ESJCR) was last week notified that a fire alarm had been activated at a domestic property on the outskirts of Douglas. 

An appliance was mobilised to the incident from Douglas fire station and a standby crew of off-duty personnel was called in as cover at an additional financial cost. 

It transpired that electrical engineers working at the property had been testing the fire alarm system, but had failed to inform the monitoring station or the ESJCR. 

John Murtagh, Deputy Chief Fire Officer, said:

‘Crews responded to this call as an emergency under blue lights and sirens to enable progress through traffic. This places officers and other road users at a greater than normal risk. We also incurred extra expenditure at a time when we are working hard to achieve greater efficiencies and drive down costs. Had the engineers put in place sufficient control measures, this incident would not have taken place.’ 

Members of the public are being encouraged to check their fire alarm systems are working properly and to ensure they know who to notify if they experience a fault, or having maintenance carried so that the emergency services are not called out unnecessarily. 

Consultation on a Bill to modernise fire and rescue service legislation recently ended.   One of the proposals is to enable the Department to charge, in future, for the performance of any non-emergency function.   It is intended that where Fire Service personnel are called out to a false alarm caused by recklessness, or where a person or body has been negligent, they may subsequently be charged for the unwanted call out. 

Chris Thomas MHK, Member of the Department of Home Affairs with responsibility for the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service, said:

‘The Service plays an essential role in the Department’s efforts to safeguard local communities.   If there is a fire or the risk of one breaking out, people must of course dial 999 immediately. The Fire Service will always respond to an emergency.’ 

He added:

‘We are urging people to take care to guard against the dangers, cost and inconvenience of a needless call-out. The Fire Service wants to avoid situations where life may be endangered because crews are attending a false alarm while a genuine emergency is occurring elsewhere.’ 

Fire safety advice is available on the Government website at

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